Trying to fill the same niche as Handspring Inc.s Treo, a carrier and two hardware manufacturers are pooling efforts on a combination handheld.
Nextel Communications Inc., Research In Motion Ltd. and Motorola Inc. are developing a device that will essentially be a RIM BlackBerry wireless, two-way e-mail device that also works as a phone and a walkie-talkie.
The device will run across Motorolas iDEN (integrated Digital Enhanced Network) technology over Nextels network, officials said. iDEN phones work as regular cell phones as well as two-way walkie-talkies.
In Europe, RIM has voice-enabled some of its traditional BlackBerry devices with a jack for an ear-bud-type headset, but the Motorola-RIM device will feel more like a phone, officials said. Hardware vendors are betting on these combo devices; Motorola, of Schaumburg, Ill., last December nixed its paging business so it could focus on devices with voice capability.
"Our research indicates that approximately 60 percent of [mobile device users] desire to carry only one device, which is data- and voice-capable," said Don Longeuiel, an analyst at Cahners InStat Group, in Newton, Mass.
The device supports Java 2 Micro Edition, which enables wireless downloads of Web applications, and is due in the fourth quarter. RIM and Nextel, in Reston, Va., have signed a multiyear supply agreement, according to officials at RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario.
The new device will compete with the Treo, which combines a phone, pager and personal digital assistant using Palm OS. The Treo runs on the Global System for Mobile Communications network but will support other networks later this year. It is due to hit the United States this month.
RIM has plans with AT&T Wireless to sell a voice-enabled BlackBerry device to AT&T corporate customers who want to take advantage of General Packet Radio Service networks, which support both voice and data. The device includes a port for an earpiece and microphone. RIM is shipping such a device in Europe, but European carriers have yet to turn on the voice portion of the service.